Sunday, December 18, 2016

Late At Night

PREVIOUS: Part 2 here.

Darkness lingered and mustered in pools of shadow around the soft golden light that faintly illuminated the room and the stuttering icy radiance of the TV that perched above a wooden cabinet at the far end of the lounge. Behind their blinds the windows beheld nothing but the inky abyss of midnight. On a sturdy, ornate wooden couch with cushions of red velvet lay a half-empty plastic tray of crumbs and Toffee-Pops, all sweet chocolate, simple biscuit and smooth honeyed caramel. Just the kind of thing for late night TV watching, especially under the familiar aegis of a blanket. On a shelf stood a glass that had once contained deep red nectar, but had since been depleted (why was the drink always empty?). Somewhere in another room a clock ticked with the undying percussive march of a metronome, only audible when the noise from the TV allowed it to be. Flashing upon the brilliant screen was the weekly episode of Scrubs, or at least one of the two that played consecutively. The Blogger had only recently discovered the show for himself after hearing much about it, but while he had come to find great humour in the hospital staff's bizarre antics, at present he was lost in a maelstrom of dire thoughts and non-digetic background scores.

For it was late, and it was at late hours like these that The Blogger pondered most deeply.

At the moment there was only one thing that the swirling winter darkness of The Blogger's innermost self was focused on utterly, and that was Her. Of course it was, it was always Her. Ever since they had first crossed paths he had been incapable of escaping the memory of her that echoed across his dreams like starlight. Everything about her had been extraordinary, down to the very nature of their meeting, a story which The Blogger would not have imagined even himself capturing - to find what he had been looking for, yet what had always been maddeningly distant, just by a magnificent chance after all these years, right when he wasn't looking, and to then find her again not once but twice, after being separated by gulfs of centuries and worlds, by ways that were so thematically intrinsic to him... the entire narrative fit together with a level of intricacy found only in truly memorable works.

The Blogger was loosing his mind. He had witnessed titanic clashes, strange and terrible creatures, epic quests, valiant heroes, terrifying villains and countless thousands of worlds, and yet in all his travels and adventures he had never encountered anything like her. The first time he ever saw her she had looked at him in a way that no-one else ever had before in his existence. He doubted he would ever forget the sly hint of a cautious smile he swore he could see her wearing.

From the moment he first beheld her he sensed great might and some tremendous significance about her, but that was to be only the beginning, a mere glimpse at what was to come. As soon as he had crossed paths with her again he started to encounter the phenomenal power about her, an immense energy the likes of which he had never known. Simply being near her set his nerves on fire and made something ancient deep inside him sing. Feelings that normally took months or even years to gestate in him she had managed to ignite in mere hours, and they only grew exponentially from there. By the time The Blogger was most recently in her company it was as if every molecule in his being was magnetised towards her, an unstoppable pull as irresistible as gravity, and it was all he could to to preserve him from taking flight then and there. For days afterwards he was unable to do almost anything other than sit and think of her, and his waking dreams were utterly consumed by visions of them together. when he was around her the music that permeated the universe swelled to a roaring crescendo until it was deafening.

And when she smiled at him, something ancient and deep inside him soared.

In just the short while he had known her The Blogger already knew she was an incredible person. In talking with her he had seen a person who was clever, wise, independent, kind, witty, and a litany of other attributes that could fill a book with their praises. He listened to her as she spoke of the daring adventures and arduous trials of her youth and marvelled at her elan and prowess. And in her he saw, perhaps, himself - the best aspects that he had (or thought he might have, at any rate), reflected and exemplified. He saw the kindred spirit he had always longed for, and he yearned to venture with her on all manner of mighty quests and adventures - for there was no doubt that she would be the finest of allies to fight by his side.

But perhaps what was most astonishing of all was how The Blogger responded to such forces. For almost an eternity now The Blogger had, in the end, been a broken soul, Long ago he had been trapped in the most agonising reaches of Hell, which had reduced him to a tortured, feral state from which he had never really fully recovered. While he had certainly made progress in restoring his humanity, he still often found great difficulty in engaging with... well, almost anyone really. This was not helped by his unique ways, values and methods, which only further distanced him from most others. But there was none of that with her. He did not know why, but whenever she was near him things were suddenly simple. There were no doubts, no hesitance, no overthinking. It was as if the sun shone through him and everything was suddenly clear, and despite being simultaneously reduced to a wrecked mass of fried nerves and exoneration The Blogger found he was more coherent, confident and calm than he had felt in aeons. He was more comfortable around her than he had ever really known with anyone in living memory. There was no fear, no horror, just two souls connecting over common ground and enjoying themselves.

Yet none of these things was deliberate on the part of The Blogger. All the reactions, all the thoughts, all of the feelings were happening entirely outside of his control. They were as immediate and automatic as the fusion in a star.

And it was this that horrified The Blogger most of all. From virtually the start of his sad, sorry history of relations romantic in nature he had been told several consistent messages from the wider world, and not least among them was the rightful order of how such feelings should come about - as a gradual process formed by great stretches of repeated contact with the object of one's affections. To form anything even resembling those infamous four letters and the nuclear reaction they caused when properly arranged after anything less than a full rotation around the sun was unnatural and wrong. Given his current predicament, The Blogger could reach only one logical conclusion - that he was truly even more of an abomination than even he had imagined, a wretched cancer and diseased failure for harbouring such weakness. After all, to the best of his knowledge none of the lasting couples he had known had arisen from such circumstances.

Not that it mattered now, of course. Before he was able to tell her anything of how he really felt it had ended the way it always did with The Blogger - she had said she lacked the time for anything of the sort. He could not think of any reason she might have to lie, but it would be far from the first time such a justification had been used as a pretext for unrequited feelings. Either way it left him with a strange and troubling mystery, for it had come entirely without warning or omen - until the dire message came she had shown what seemed to be nothing but interest in him, conveyed in nearly everything from what she said to how she acted. According to all he knew, every sign pointed towards a positive end, and he had taken tremendous pains to do as much right as he could. He had been certain that at long last he had found someone who might understand him, who might actually want him for what he was (perhaps that was his great mistake), and every indication he had seen had led the same way. Of course, The Blogger was no stranger to such things misleading him - indeed, as he had been sure to remind himself for years now, no matter how sure he was that he was right, he was still wrong. He was always wrong.

But then he had heard of a similar happening, and another possibility had occurred to him.He recalled how people could sometimes be afraid, and wondered if perhaps that might have happened here. Maybe when she had more time free he would see more of her. And that was the most damming agony of all, not knowing. Maybe she did like him, maybe she didn't. Maybe he would see her again, maybe she had already been swept away by someone else. Maybe he was wrong, maybe he was right. Maybe she was just frightened, maybe he had read everything wrong. It was this black, nightmarish, venomous splinter in his mind that was driving him ever further towards total insanity: maybe.

Maybe Maybe Maybe Maybe...

It was late now, very late. Infomercials played on the TV, before The Blogger silenced them. The plastic tray was now empty.

At once, the clock ceased, and the noise went out.

Friday, December 2, 2016

What Happened The Other Week On A Walk

PREVIOUS: Part 1 here

The afternoon sun raged and stormed as it drifted down towards the horizon, leisurely inching over hours down to earth. As it drifted across the heavens the world below was blanketed in a warm golden-amber light, which painted the surrounding scenery in friendly, saturated tones of colour. This left the environment reminiscent of long summer afternoons, ice cream from corner stores, childhood memories and better days long past.

Meadows of Heaven.

It was Autumn now, and so despite the glowing warmth of the sunlight the air was permeated with a sharp growing cold, driven at times by a chilling wind that scattered leaves the colours of fire and blood across the forlorn grey footpath, past lines of shops with quaint, comely storefronts lined with chained nests of flowers. There was something tragically reassuring about the sight of those flower-nests, suspended from the overhanging roofs like spiders on silk, for they only ever seemed to grow away from the relentless grind of existence, in places that seemed possessed of charm and authenticity, grass-roots places that grew out from the wild expanse of the beyond. Where the grass grew green and the trees yielded to the untamed wind beneath the unbound skies of sea grey or robin red, where the roads stretched ever onward away from the great hives of humanity, where homes grew small and quiet and intimate, there they flourished in front of humble shops with genuine signs that sang with the hum of drink cabinets and smelled of hot frying batters to steel the soul against the cold night.

It was in places like these that he could hear the strings and the pipes and the hurdy-gurdy at the end of the world.

Along this path of sun and cold and memory walked The Blogger, relentlessly striding forward as wandered along the footpath. Behind him was the sea and before him was the road to the city. And beyond that lay the endless all-encompassing insane web of the universe. Though initially a mundane activity purely done out of practical need - for there was little other choice for transportation - The Blogger had long begun to discover that walking held a substantially more intrinsically endemic aspect for himself. As he walked across the wilderness of the world and the wilderness of humanity, he found his mind began to collate and organise itself far more sharply. visions, revelations, ideas and dreams all began to tessellate, fitting together like pieces of a mechanical puzzle. In an hours' walk he could plan an entire campaign, explore whole worlds, craft every turn of a sprawling epic or map out the dire, looming sword of Damocles that was the future.

As he roamed along his adventure, The Blogger began to become unstuck in time and space. As a storyteller he was able to traverse the boundaries between worlds and universes, amongst other strange gifts. There were limits of course - to cross over between worlds was no small matter, despite how easy it might appear, and to do it required finding a suitable crossing point, but The Blogger always seemed to find them in abundance on such walks as he roamed the endless infinity both within and without. Once an appropriate point was reached, and if the individual was gifted (or cursed, from another point of view) in the right way, crossing over seemed and felt as simple as entering a dream; there was no memory of how you got there, or what had come before, and yet you somehow instinctively knew that this was where you were meant to be, and what needed to come next. At one moment you were stepping in one place.

And the next moment you were stepping somewhere else entirely.

The Blogger wandered across all manner of places among the yawning abyss of eternity. He walked across past, present and future. He strode through the battlefields of old, when he had commanded vast armies in titanic clashes against all manner of horrors. Demons, machines, invaders from beyond this earth, all had perished in defeat by his hand. He had led his legions to victory after victory, and the cheers of triumph still roared in his ears. He saw his warriors, comrades and friends hurl themselves forwards to certain death, and emerge from the other side. He saw himself direct them in fiendish defences he had planned against which unstoppable waves had dashed themselves over and over until the sun finally rose. As he went he would at times make slight adjustments to things - shifting a person here, moving a bullet there - so that they were more as he remembered them. It felt like the right thing to do. And throughout it all he saw these people, the mightiest of his warriors, fighting through fire and fury and Armageddon, all because they believed in him.

He broke apart inside knowing where that had led.

The Blogger walked through the foundries of today, where empires were built, where events were crafted and from which all potential outcomes stemmed. He witnessed the ignition of things to come, the first flickering chances that would set into motion tremendous calamities. He pierced the veil and saw around the corner to the production of his own escapades - nightmarish horrors to face, darkened days to come, moments in time where cataclysmic forces would pivot on his actions, the rage and agony of gods, a young woman in a jacket with a taste for music. He saw the formation of endless new worlds to explore, and the plots that would unfurl on them. He walked past memories of joy and pain. He walked into dreams where he adventured and sat laughed and wandered in infinite utter bliss with the brightest star in the night sky.

With Her.

And the Blogger walked towards the empty darkness of tomorrow. He beheld the incomprehensibly vast all-consuming gaping maw of the future, devouring everything that inevitably reached it. He saw the end of time and crumbling towers. He saw the withering of comfort and felt the sand inside his hourglass trickling into nothingness. He saw himself die, over and over and over again - murder, disease, mercy at the end of his time, the quest from which he would never return. He saw through scrying how he would one day come to be no more than an empty shell, drifting through motions until he could finally rest forever, and how the others would be left - at once in pain, at twice with the indifference of never having known of him. He saw this and a thousand other myriad possible futures, and the bright ones were few and far between.

The Blogger walked through flames and darkness. He walked in the void between stars, and the shadows behind the universe. He walked through love and death, darkness and light, and emerged at a quiet suburban street corner, with trees lining the footpath.

At the end of the horizon, lost among the sands of an ancient forgotten desert stood the store that was The Blogger's current destination. In truth this was not the full building, but rather the one aspect of it that was closest to The Blogger at the time. The shop itself had fronts in multiple dimensions, situated as it was upon a nexus between realities, very hard to reach - which was only fitting given its name. It was a whimsical place, a simple looking two-story building of painted wood with a front door at the bottom flanked by two wide windows. Inside there was a small counter cornered in by the towering shelves and piles of books that filled the remainder of its interior.

As he entered the Blogger was greeted by a tall, slender young lady with an expression that was at once both kind and wise, with the hint of secret knowledge. Her hair was short and light, a contrast to the night-black nails that tipped her fingers and the dark loose-fitting garments she wore draped between a white shirt and a grey scarf. The Blogger did not recognise her, and could only assume that she must be new to the staff, but he already liked her - she radiated dark metal, black magic and arcane wisdom. Only the total delectability of Berry and Biscuit Whittaker's was missing. The Blogger had long since learnt that there was nothing that could not be made better with Berry and Biscuit Whittaker's.

After leaving his bag with the counter, The Blogger travelled up a forlorn wooden staircase to the shop's upper floor. It was this part that he usually had the most interest in during his visits to the store, for it was here that the items most valuable to him were contained. As a storyteller, The Blogger maintained a keen interest in strange and ancient knowledge, and had over the ages amassed a sizeable collection of dark grimoires and eldritch tomes of forbidden lore. Stored safely in secret caches and repositories among The Blogger's many places of refuge that were scattered across existence, these mystic volumes held immense power - True Names, the dark arts of scrying and necromancy, spellcraft and words of power, rituals for summoning and binding any manner of creature, forgotten languages, guerilla warfare, sigils of warding, astral projection, thaumaturgy, the very deepest workings of reality and much, much more were all able to be unlocked from them. This arsenal was vast, but The Blogger was always looking to add to it, either to prevent such items from falling into the wrong hands, or to use for his own purposes. To this end The Blogger would visit the shop from time to time, for all books passed through it sooner or later and it would often accumulate such tomes of eldritch lore. What The Blogger was about to find, however, was beyond what he would ever anticipate.

He felt it more than he saw it, at first. It lay buried behind a pile of other publications in a large cardboard box, so that only the barest hint of colour peeked through to the light of day. It was just a tiny sliver of deep moss green and rich blood red, but to one with second sight like The Blogger it was more than enough to identify its true form. In the recesses of the box, where shadows pooled, its colours glowed in the darkness, the radiance pulsing at the pace of a fading heart. Light touching the upper parts seemed to prism as if through stained glass, and if The Blogger focused enough on it, with his hearing attuned as it was to non-diegetic sounds inaudible to most, he could faintly hear music coming from it. It sounded distant, but unmistakably loud, dramatic and dark. And he sensed a presence that he had not felt since...

The Blogger swiftly flicked through what lay in front of it, dexterously parting the many publications that were lined out upright, and pried it out for a closer examination. It was a bound volume, roughly A4 in size. He felt its cover, hard and glossy and cold to the touch, dark red and ivory green, with thorned roses and fallen angels, with a woman in leather and a peek-a-boo, skulls adorning her clothing and tears trailing in anguish across her face. It resonated dark rock and old Vampire gamebooks. It was pure crystallised underground 90s. He turned it over in his hands. The back was entirely in shades of blood and horror, patterned in yet more roses. On the spine was an etched sigil, a stylised eye crying three tears. Below that was the volume's title, concerning none other than the Devil, and something of crucial importance to it. He looked over at the blurb. Below it was etched in scratchy lettering a publisher, the name of a star. The Blogger keenly scanned the blurb's text. It was a codex of life roles, angels and demons, goddesses and New York. Now for the real test. He turned the volume over and opened it. Immediately inside were chains and more crimson flowers, beneath a macabre drawing and an inscription - EVERY TIME I DIED I THOUGHT OF YOU. The Blogger could not help but relate to that statement. As he flicked further through the volume, the non-digetic score that permeated the world soared, and he beheld a fantastically bizarre world - light, darkness, magic and beauty (though with some perhaps regrettable costume choices). He knew now that what he was holding was ancient, and very, very powerful.

The Blogger collected his bag and left the shop with haste. He travelled back homewards and made all speed to all the information centres that he knew of. He arrived at vast gleaming silver archives, decrepit dust-filled crypts, colossal shining temples and incomprehensible libraries, and scoured every one of them for any information there might be about this mysterious volume. To his pleasant surprise he did not need to search far, and began to learn more about it. He learnt that it was not the only one of its kind - there were at least two other companion volumes, which themselves were derived from earlier writings, as well as numerous related artefacts floating within the ether. He also learnt more about what was contained within - secrets to planar travel, summoning gods, the cycle of life and death, and the nature of heaven and hell.

Clearly, The Blogger thought, this volume could be of some use...

NEXT: Part 3 here.

Ace Of Clubs

Hi Welcome to the blog of the Mangere Bridge Teen Book Club. We call ourselves Ace of Clubs. We meet once a month, normally on the third Thursday 4.30pm @ Mangere Bridge Library. We talk about books, hang out and have random fun. This blog will tell you what we have been up to, what is coming up and of course lots of stuff about books. All teens are welcome so if you are around come along and join us.